In any description of platform-specific advertising today, there’s one word you’re guaranteed to see: Native.
But this should not surprise you. Every platform and advertiser seems to be awash in native advertising.
And for good reason:
- Native ads can bring an 82% uplift for a brand (source)
- The purchase intent of a consumer is 53 percent higher when he/she clicks on a native ad instead of a traditional ad (source)
- The revenue of native advertising industry will reach $4.6 billion by 2017 (source)
You may see sponsored tweets on Twitter and sponsored posts on Facebook; these are a few examples of native advertising. Its growing popularity relies on delivering the content in a natural (native) state and for people to interact with it in a personalized manner.
Native advertising has attracted a lot of attention as depicted in the image below:
That said, the world of native advertising is not as simple as it looks, and it’s the consumer, not the advertiser, who has control. Also, there are dangers of angering people by resorting to deception and trickery to make quick money.
Brands that have connected the dots successfully are already capitalizing on the consumerization of native advertising.
Intuition, authenticity, and relatable messaging are guiding principles behind the consumerization of native advertising. While companies like Facebook and Buzzoole have tested several different usability patterns to scrutinize how end users interact with ads, marketers and advertisers often fail to capitalize on the benefits of native advertising.
Native Ads Can Get a Cold Shoulder
Some companies perceive this consumerization as a real threat that must be addressed via aggressive measures. They see disasters stemming from ignorance, lack of interest, and no action on the consumer’s end. And, many worry about their declining influence.
I wouldn’t blame them for worrying. In fact, native advertising campaigns can be a complete failure because of the following reasons:
- Consumers Feel Deceived By Native Ads
There’s one major reason why consumers hate native ads – it can make them feel they’re being taken advantage of. That happens when an ad appears like it was a natural part of UX or content, becoming an advertisement in disguise that can make people feel tricked.
This is why native ads have received quite a bit of backlash. John Oliver in one of his segments on the show “Last Week Tonight” informed about a study where half of the readers couldn’t tell the difference between actual news and actual ads, and pointed out that brands are banking on consumers to perceive both as the same.
Another interesting study: data from a survey of 209 consumers for their thoughts on how native ads are presented by the native ad tech company TripleLift shows the problem with the disclosure of native ads.
71% people said they noticed the ad’s content, but 62% didn’t realize they were looking at an ad. Also, the label for the ad “advertisement” was only seen by 23% of the lot.
- Consumers Don’t Trust All Native Advertising
Consumer trust in advertising continues to fall on a daily basis, and that includes their trust in native advertising. That’s why you see headlines like “Facebook and Twitter ads don’t work” day in and day out. Also, native advertising hasn’t been prone to ad blockers; these have been used regularly by consumers to filter out these ads.
Moreover, a research by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that people generally dislike sponsored content and despised native ads in reality. What’s intriguing is that they’re more trusting and tolerant of paid content on certain subjects, notably lifestyle, fashion and motoring. However, they’ll object native ads on finance, news and politics.
If research shows that native advertising could reduce trust, what else do we have to build a good relationship with our audience? Sure, there are well-crafted sponsored content campaigns that don’t necessarily fall into this debate. But, most of the ads, fail to win consumer trust whether they’re on mobile, content management systems, social media networks or eCommerce stores.
By the way, magazines still leverage the vogue effect of glossy ads to increase audience engagement. But magazine publishers can build and strengthen their relationship even more by capitalizing on well-crafted native ads.
- Consumers Think Native Ads May Tarnish a Brand’s Credibility
Even though people view branded content as a bit more trustworthy than publications like Fox News, 59% of them believe a news site that runs sponsored content loses credibility, according to a survey by Contently. While simple disclosure that “it’s an ad” should solve problems, viewers are intelligent enough to know, and criticism doesn’t help advertisers gain credit.
Also, a study by consumer research group CivicScience revealed that consumers aren’t sure about sponsored content, and have expressed their concerns about the steps needed to preserve objective journalism. While 47% survey respondents believed that ads are the best way to fund journalistic content, 61% stated that sponsored content will hurt the credibility of the media outlet that sponsors it.
So, what’s the use of fighting to build your brand’s reputation as a trusted source of information, when you will end up looking like a conniving car salesman?
Moreover, the survey asserts that people prefer traditional banner ads to native ads or sponsored content.
There’s a variation between consumer behavior and attitude. How ads are delivered may affect results dramatically.
Using Native Ads to Your Advantage
Despite these negative findings about native advertising, there are steps you can take to overcome the obstacles and use native advertising to your brand’s advantage.
Advertisers usually miss out on this opportunity because all they care about is a higher CTR (click through rate). Because native advertising drives a significantly higher CTR (49x for Facebook) than traditional display ads, those who use CTR to gauge success will throw anything they’ve got at native ad content. As a result, they’re not able to optimize the experience.
But you – the representative of your brand and ad campaign – can stand out by following these best practices:
- Display Subject Matter Expertise
The first determinant of success in native advertising is contextual relevancy. An ad should serve the audience first and the company second, which means you’d have to let go of the brand-centric mantra. It can’t be a simple ad with a regurgitation of your previous campaign’s messaging – consumers want to see something they care about, based on the context where the ad is displayed.
This statement is backed by IAB’s survey that highlights consumer opinion on sponsored in-feed content. It revealed that “subject matter expertise” was a critical factor in determining how consumers will respond to native advertising.
A great example cited by Hubspot: Slate did a piece on students from Lavelle School for the Blind and Visually Impaired who were a part of B.E.A.T. NYC’s beatboxing and music class for Wells Fargo. The story featured students in action and commentary from teachers.
The aim of the content was to educate, which is what you should be doing. You can create expert content if you have the knowledge and resources, or partner up with niche experts via platforms like Buzzoole to leverage subject matter expertise.
- Co-create The Ad
While co-creation has become a common concept in the world of product development, it’s fascinating to see it being used in the world of advertising. So consider it your big opportunity because not many brands have given a thought to using co-creation for native advertising.
According to a survey by Edelman Berland and Edelman 8095, millennials want to be entertained with brand advertising. They’re open to advertisements and brand engagement, but only if companies adopt the right approach.
In order to capture the attention of this fast-growing consumer segment, you can utilize contests and humor while involving the consumers themselves. For instance, you can run a contest where the winner will get to be the face of your brand on Facebook. This type of advertisement will be more effective because it showcases honesty and quality.
Even though the design of the ad is not created via co-creation, the ad itself is. You can expect the consumers to react favorably to this, but that highly depends on the level of input consumers give to a native ad campaign.
- Entertain Your Audience
As mentioned before in the post, the audience may not trust a brand behind sponsored content and the website publishing it may not be deemed as credible. But you can change that perception by taking a different route than being promotional.
What you could do is tell a story that is entertainment and isn’t focused on the brand. You’d be surprised if the audience feels delighted by the storyline while taking the organic brand mentions in the ad in a positive way (that could easily happen if your content is that good).
That’s what SB Nation did for Nike in a sponsored section titled “First & Long”. It features top NFL athletes who went back to their high school for summer training.
A video was created by each athlete, and they gave a pep talk to encourage young athletes to work hard and constantly push themselves to reach greater heights. If this wouldn’t give Goosebumps to NFL fans, I don’t know what will. And hey, Nike is just there to give you an extra edge.
Native advertising is an opportunity in disguise. Several brands are skipping it altogether because they don’t see the numbers upfront. With the right strategy, however, any brand can earn a decent income from sponsored content WHILE ENHANCING the experience of their visitors.
What are your thoughts? Do you think native advertising will survive in the future? Feel free to leave comments.Fabrizio Perrone
CEO and co-founder of Buzzoole, Fabrizio is a visionary, perfectionist, and serial entrepreneur. He started his entrepreneurial journey in 2008 and since then has not stopped, becoming a mentor at the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship for Virgin Unite alongside his entrepreneurial projects, until finally the ambitious Viral Eye project, which later became Buzzoole. Get in touch with him on Twitter at @fabrlzio.